In 1989, Carolyn Cole, Catherine H. Aldridge (Catherine Gandy), Dr. Betty Jean Jones founded the North Carolina Playwrights Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing playwrights and giving them the opportunities to develop their plays. In 1991, accountant and theater lover, Sarah P. McKoy joined the management team and provided the financial expertise and guidance necessary for operations and play productions. “When playwrights work, all theater artists work” is the guiding philosophy and hallmark of the Center’s work. The Center expanded its reach to South Carolina and does business as the Carolina Playwrights Center. Since 1996, the Center has done more dramaturgical work coaching individual playwrights with specific plays and screenplays.
The Playwrights Center invites playwrights that evidence a commitment to playwriting as a long term career in the theater to participate in artistic, production, script and business development tailored to the needs of each individual playwright with the goal of helping them create a body of work. The Center presents opportunities for play development from readings to full productions in partnership with educational and professional theaters.
RGJ recognizes the Playwrights Center as an opportunity to attract more visitors to rural North Carolina and South Carolina with stories and dramatic productions featuring Carolina artists. RGJ will manage the reboot of the Carolina Playwrights Center in 2019 with a living history project and documentary film about the descendants of the Cole Plantation in Bentonville.
The Playwrights Center partnered with Larry Leon Hamlin and the North Carolina Black Repertory Theatre to produce the first annual National Black Theater Festival in 1989 with Dr. Maya Angelou as honorary chair and Oprah Winfrey as the opening night guest speaker. The festival is still ongoing and every other year makes an economic impact the first week in August in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
The Playwright’s Center partnered with Dr. Jeff Koep, Dean of the School of the Arts at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, UNC Greensboro, North Carolina A&T State University, Catawba College, UNC Charlotte, Sandhills Community College in Southeast High School in Greensboro, Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, and a host of professional theaters and playwrights to present six seasons of successful play festivals. Season six featured the first reading of Terrence McNally’s Love! Valor! Compassion! Subsequently it was produced by the Manhattan Theater Club and won eight Tony Awards. In 1996 Cole’s award winning drama, Mournin’ aka In A Clean House was produced on 42nd Street in New York under a Small Professional Theater contract and won the Audelco Award for Best Play. The Playwrights Center has featured the works of Terri Collin, L. Teresa Church, Romulus Linney, Tom Huey, Sybille Pearson, Karen Jones Meadows, Steve Willis and many others.